From Como Lake Road
Friday May 19, 2006
My friend Kevin picked me up at 4:00AM and drove us all the way to Como Lake Road. Kevin then did a masterful job of negotiating this abysmal road with its cobbles, wash outs, switchbacks; thus the well earned title of “roughest road in Colorado”. Kevin got a full 3 miles up (well done!!) in his Tacoma and we chocked all four tires and headed up the road at 9:12AM
The weather was perfect……….blue skies, and about 75 degrees, we hiked up this steep and rocky road to Como Lake and arrived about 11:15. Little Bear Peak totally dominates the view to the right and above this beautiful little lake and we saw a couple of tents pitched but nobody around. Como Road continues to the left of the lake and the quickly melting snow made things a bit muddy as we climbed higher up to and above Blue Lakes and beyond where the road finally ends.
I had gotten ahead of Kevin as we agreed to go at our own paces once we past Como Lake, as the hike on the road up was taking its toll on us. I proceeded up beyond the road where the trail crosses a creek to the left, I followed the cairns as the trail switches back several times gaining altitude to where I could now see ahead to a massive “bowl” with many large patches of snow. Little Bear remains very large to the right and straight ahead is a rather large notch and up above Blanca Peak to the right and Ellingwood Pt on the left.
I met a guy and his son coming down from Blanca and they advised against climbing on the softening snow and to climb higher near the saddle to avoid post-holing problems. As I proceeded I found their advice to be well taken as I continued through the notch with a large rock formation to the right and up to a frozen, but thawing Crater Lake. From here the trail virtually disappears and scrambling up loose talus became the only advance as I avoided the snow patches and made my way higher nearing the saddle between Ellingwood and Blanca; a slow, hard go, yet very exhilarating.
We had originally hoped to summit both Blanca & Ellingwood, but with it becoming rather late in the afternoon, I decided to summit Blanca only as time was simply running-out and my progress was far too slow to allow otherwise; oh well. With the summit in view, the clock ticking, loose talus, and no one else in sight I pressed-on. The clouds were building as I finally reached an empty summit at 3:03PM.
With the gathering clouds and time becoming a factor I only stayed about 10 minutes on top after signing the summit log, taking a few photos, and enjoying the glorious views in all directions. I was fortunate that the weather stayed calm & mild, the bad weather appeared to be several miles to the north and I could see where the Crestone area peaks were pretty well socked-in. Lucky for me as I headed back down.
Finding a line on the loose rocks became a real challenge and skirting around the snow was ever important. The post-holing was especially bad and in one spot I nearly lost my boot as I sunk clear up to my heap with my left leg and then my right, quite exhausting. In some places on the way up there was a trickle of water running down where the snow was melting, but on the way back down these places now had a cascade of running water making things really slick. When I finally got down near the basin of the bowl I was able to glissade in a few areas saving myself many steps, and I was glad to get back down to the muddy road.
The rocky road seemed endless on the way back to the truck and I finally got back at 6:35PM where Kevin had been waiting for about an hour for me to show. 9 and a half hours round-trip made for a long day. In retrospect……..and when I return to this area, it makes more sense to hike into Como Lake, pitch camp and do your hiking the next day or two……..lesson learned. Anyway……..my first peak summit of 2006, and my 22nd 14’er, sweet!!!!!!!!